Youth football league gets court order to regain access to Palestine athletic complex

Palestine Athletic Complex

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) -Today, the Anderson County judge told the Palestine city manager “be prepared to go to jail."

This came after city council decided to immediately close the city’s athletic complex because it wasn’t compliant with “Americans with Disabilities Act” (ADA) laws and had pending litigation.

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The youth football leagues who use the complex got a court order allowing them to regain access, but the city manager was not following it.

“I didn’t come out here yesterday and try to force my hand to come in,” said Carey McKinney, the president of the Anderson County Football League. “I knew the court order was in place, and I had immediate access, but I was giving the city time to come out and change the locks back out.”

WEBXTRA: Palestine athletic complex closes

When McKinney got to the complex Friday morning, he was still being denied access. They city manager said she was waiting to speak with legal counsel.

“The constable advised her, ‘You do understand you got a court order?’ and then he called the judge,” McKinney said. “The judge essentially notified her, verbally over the constable’s phone, that if she did not open the gate, she was going to jail.”

“He said that if you violate the writ, be prepared to go to jail," said Patsy Smith, the parks and recreation director, in a phone call to the city manager.

The court order says the city manager can request a hearing, but in the meantime, the youth football league can use the complex. For the youth baseball league, it’s a different story.

“We had already started our fall ball season. Of course, now that’s not going to happen,”said Chris Holman, the commissioner for the Palestine Youth Athletic Association. “We’re trying to find other avenues, others cities and other towns, their ball parks. Several of them have reached out to us. This really affects our spring league because we serve 650 kids every year in our spring league, and with them locking us out, where are they gonna go?”

In terms of the city’s pending ADA litigation, the league organizers say they have solutions in the meantime and for the future.

“I’ve always made reasonable accommodations, if they come in, and they’ve got their handicapped placard,” McKinney said. “In our lease agreement, it says we cannot make any changes to this complex without approval from the city.”

“The gentleman who filed the lawsuit, there’s no hard feelings. He even asked to work with them over the next couple of years if they’ll show they’re making some changes and improvements to fix what’s going on. It’s not his fault, he did what needed to be done,” said Holman. “We’ve even left the option open for this complex to be corrected; whatever the ADA issues are, we’re willing to work with them and help them fix it.”

The city manager says they are planning on hosting a public meeting to hear comments and suggestions in regards to the city’s athletic complex Monday night at six o’clock, at City Hall.

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